Strategy for Eliminating Gastric Cancer in Japan


Reprint requests to: Masahiro Asaka, Department of Gastroenterology, Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine, Sapporo 0608638, Japan. E-mail: maasaka@med.hokudai.


A study conducted by the Japan Gast Study Group showed that eradication of Helicobacter pylori reduced the risk of gastric cancer by about one-third. However, it did not completely prevent the onset of latent gastric cancer among those at high risk (i.e., with atrophic gastritis). To prevent deaths from gastric cancer, it is necessary to eradicate H. pylori infection. We propose a program of risk stratification based on the presence of H. pylori infection with or without atrophic gastritis followed by targeted interventions. Those at no risk for gastric cancer (no H. pylori, no atrophic gastritis) need no therapy or follow-up. Those at low risk (H. pylori infected, nonatrophic gastritis) need only H. pylori eradication therapy. The smaller groups at high or very high risk need eradication and cancer surveillance. We estimated the costs and the benefits of this strategy. Gastric cancer screening by simultaneous measurement of serum pepsinogen and H. pylori antibody combined with eradication of H. pylori in all individuals at risk would initially increase national healthcare expenditure, but this would be offset by markedly reducing the cost of treating gastric cancer. The proposed strategy should prevent about 150,000 deaths from gastric cancer during the 5 years after its adoption. If the loss caused by these deaths is also taken into account, the economic effect of this strategy becomes enormous. It would probably reduce the incidence of gastric cancer by more than 80–90% within 10 years. The Japanese government should take the initiative to implement this strategy as soon as possible.